1. The structure of the degree courses
Students don’t come to CAT to study full time. They come here for a week at the start of each module for an intense period seminars, lectures and practicals – they then go home to work on their essays and reports. This means that a lot of our students are working full time alongside their degrees. I think this kind of solution will become increasingly popular as degrees become increasingly expensive and living costs fall relative to wages. We also have distance learning options.
2. The network students establish
In part because the degrees here are so immersive (when students are here they are literally living in the university building) students build up a very close network with each other very quickly. The fact that so many of our students are also working (and many of them are mature students) means that between them they have a wealth of experience which we and they really value. This is great for their careers and it also means we have developed quite a radical pedagogy where students are encouraged to share their expertise as well as lecturers.
3. Practical approach rooted in the industry
Unlike a traditional university where most of the lecturers are full time academics, at CAT virtually all the lecturers have other jobs and projects in the renewable energy and sustainable architecture industries. They can bring this experience into their lectures and it is clear that students really value this.
4. An inspiring environment
Situated in a disused slate quarry on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park, with a 7 acre visitors centre demonstrating a wide array of renewable technologies and sustainable building techniques, CAT is a pretty utopian place to study. The WISE building (Wales Institute for Sustainability Education – our graduate school building) itself is an impressive example of what can be achieved integrating stunning architecture with environmental principles. It has won prestigious awards (including RIBA) and students often comment on what a great place to study it is.